How it works


This little "Crime scene" story is aimed for beginners and intermediate learners that want to increase their vocabulary of everyday objects in French. Your first task will be to learn the new words that you will be introduced to by heart, as best as you can. One way to do it is to print the pictures and cut them out, like a mini deck of cards. Write the correct word on the back of each card. Then, test yourself by picking a random card and trying to remember the word all by yourself. If you get it wrong, check the word behind the card and put it back into the deck.


Once you are confident that you can remember most of the words, your next task will be to read (and translate) a challenging short story involving those words (plus some more!). When expressions (or multiple words that go together) are used, they will be written in quotation marks to help you spot them. New words that I would like you to remember will be underlined. Once you are done with reading and translating, you will be able to calculate your score by looking at my translation. However, before starting, do you remember how to say "on," "above" and so on? If not, here is a little refresher. Note that "under" can be expressed as en-dessous or sous. I chose the latter for this exercise, as it avoids confusion.



Also, keep in mind that it’s a common pit fall for students translate the English "there is..." literally. In French, the verb “to have” is used instead, like this: il y a (it there has). In the past (imparfait), it becomes il y avait.


The Vocabulary Cards



Scène de crime


Mon nom est Nickel. Je suis détective privé. Ce travail ne paye pas bien, mais être son patron, “ça n'a pas de prix”! Aujourd'hui, mon client est un “homme d'affaires.” Des documents secrets ont été volés hier, dans son bureau. La police a arrêté trois suspects (une femme et deux hommes) mais elle n'a pas trouvé les documents. À mon tour de chercher !


La pièce est bien rangée. La fenêtre est impossible à ouvrir. Selon moi, les documents sont cachés dans cette pièce. Mais ?


J'ai commencé par regarder sur le bureau. J'ai trouvé un écran d'ordinateur (allumé), un clavier et une souris. Il y avait aussi une tasse (vide), plusieurs papiers (sans importance) et des stylos (quatre bleus et un rouge). Dans les tiroirs, j'ai trouvé des cigares, des ciseaux, un surligneur jaune, une règle en plastique, des trombones et des feuilles (blanches). J'ai aussi trouvé un agenda. On peut y lire que mon client avait un rendez-vous hier. C'est écrit en rouge et c'est surligné en jaune.


Dans le coin de la pièce, j'ai trouvé un photocopieur (éteint), deux fauteuils, une table basse (vide), un classeur (contenant la comptabilité) et une bibliothèque. Dans la bibliothèque, il y avait plusieurs livres (ennuyeux) sur le commerce international. Sur la bibliothèque, il y avait une plante verte.


Sur le mur, on peut voir un calendrier et deux cadres (une peinture abstraite et une photo de famille). Je remarque que la photo penche un peu. C'est bizarre. En regardant bien, je peux voir des “empreintes digitales” sur le verre. Je crois que quelqu'un a glissé les documents secrets sous la photo, pour pouvoir revenir les chercher plus tard ! Lorsque les “empreintes digitales” seront analysées, la police pourra identifier le coupable. Je pari que c'est la secrétaire. Mystère réglé !



Pronunciation Corner


Crime (French) and "crime" (English) are spelled the same and mean the same thing. However, they are pronounced differently! In French, make sure you use the French i, like in the word "image" (and not like in the word "time".)


Scène is pronounced [senn] or [sennuh], depending on how much you want to stretch it (I prefer the shorter version).


Suspect in French sounds like [sus-pay]. Both the c and t are silent!


Feuille is a word that makes people nervous. It's simply pronounced [fuh-yuh], or as a one syllable word [FUH-e]. Here, you can hear three people saying it on Forvo. By the way, if you say [fo-yuh], you can imagine me wincing here. To improve, you need to pout more on the first syllable.


Coin can be said in one syllable [kwan] or in two [koo-an]. Note that Canadian speakers, like me, say their in in a more nasal and stretched way. It ends up sounding like [kwain] but with a short n (in other words, if it rhymes with the English speaking surname "Twain," you got it wrong).


A common mistake is reading all the letters in words like peinture and empreinte. The combination ein is not that common, but do try to remember that the e has no sound. Your pronunciation of each should sound something like [pan-tur] and [an-prant].


Ennuyeux is a difficult word for learners because of its y. Most people don't realise that it doubles up as two i’s: one read in the first syllable and the the other one read with the second syllable. [an-nu-ee-yuh].


A Translation: Crime Scene


My name is Nickel. I'm a Private investigator. This job doesn't pay well, but being your own boss [patron (French) and “patron” (English) are false friends!] is priceless. Today, my client is a business man. Secret documents were stolen yesterday in his office [Desk and office and one and the same in French!]. The police arrested three suspects (one woman, two men) but did not find the documents. It's now my turn to search!


The room [pièce (French) and “piece” (English) are false friends!] is tidy. The window is impossible to open. According to me (meaning "I think" or "my hunch is"), the documents are hidden in the room. But where?


I started by looking on the desk. I found a computer screen (turned on), a keyboard and a mouse. There was also a cup (empty), several papers (not important) and some pens (four blue ones and one red one). In the drawers, I found some cigars, scissors, a yellow highlighter, a plastic ruler, some paperclips and some sheets (white). I also found an appointment book. It's possible to read (in it) that my client had an appointment yesterday. It's written in red and highlighted in yellow.


In the corner of the room, I found a printer (turned off), two armchairs, a low table (empty), a filing cabinet (containing accounting information) and a bookcase (“library” and “bookcase” are one and the same in French!). In the bookcase, there were several books (boring) on international commerce/trading. On the bookcase, there was a green plant.


On the wall, one can see a calendar and two picture frames (an abstract painting and a family picture). I notice that the photo is leaning a bit. It's odd. When looking closely, I can see some fingerprints on the glass. I think someone slipped the secret documents under the photo, to be able to come back and collect them later! When the fingerprints are analysed, the police will be able to identify the culprit. I bet it's the secretary. Mystery solved!


This story is hopefully the first of many. However you are invited to decide: Hit the “like” button or write some comments, and I will write some more. Less than 25 likes and I'm unlikely to continue the story, so your vote counts!


Image Sources


All images by the author